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Israeli air raid targets key Syrian port of Latakia: State media – Al Jazeera English



Attack caused ‘significant material damage’, but no casualties were reported, SANA news agency says.

An Israeli air raid has struck Syria’s Mediterranean port of Latakia for the second time this month, causing “significant material damage”, according to Syrian state media.

“At around 3:21am (05:21 GMT), the Israeli enemy carried out an aerial aggression with several missiles from the direction of the Mediterranean … targeting the container yard in Latakia port,” SANA state news agency cited a military source as saying on Tuesday.

Live footage aired by state television showed flames and smoke in the container terminal. Later on Tuesday, the Syrian government’s media office said emergency services brought under control fires that had broken out in the port’s container storage area.

The missile attack also wrecked the facades of a hospital, some residential buildings and shops, according to SANA.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attack, which activated Syrian air defences, it said.

Since the outbreak of Syria’s war in 2011, Israel has routinely carried out air raids on its strife-torn neighbour, mostly targeting Syrian government troops as well as allied Iran-backed forces and fighters affiliated with the Lebanese Hezbollah group.

A reporter for the state-run Al-Ikhbariyah TV in the area said the explosions could be heard in Tartus, another coastal city more than 80km (nearly 50 miles) south.

Asked about the raid, an Israeli army spokesman said: “We don’t comment on reports in foreign media.”

Latakia is Syria’s main commercial port.

Russia, which has been President Bashar al-Assad’s most powerful ally during the war, alongside Iran, operates an airbase at Hmeimim, some 20km (12 miles) south of the city.

Flames rise from containers at the scene of missiles attack, at Latakia, SyriaIsraeli missiles fired from the Mediterranean struck the port of Latakia early Tuesday, igniting a fire in the container terminal, Syrian state media said, in the second attack on the vital facility this month [SANA via AP]

Routine air raids

On December 7, Israel carried out raids on the port in Latakia, located in al-Assad’s western Syrian heartland, without causing any casualties.

That earlier attack, which was the first on the facility since the start of the war, targeted an Iranian arms shipment and triggered a series of explosions, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitor with a wide network of sources in Syria.

In November, three soldiers and two Syrian fighters affiliated with Hezbollah were killed in Israeli raids, according to the monitoring group.

While Israel rarely comments on individual attacks it carries out on its northern neighbour – with which it is officially at war – it has confirmed hundreds since 2011.

According to a report by the Israeli army, it hit about 50 targets in Syria in 2020.

In the deadliest operation since the raids began, Israel killed 57 Syrian government soldiers and allied fighters in eastern Syria overnight on January 13, 2021.

In a shadow war, Israeli forces have targeted Iran’s military sites in Syria and also carried out a sabotage campaign inside the country against its nuclear programme.

Iran has been a key supporter of al-Assad in the conflict. It finances, arms and commands a number of Syrian and foreign militia groups fighting alongside the regular armed forces, including Hezbollah.

The war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people since it started a decade ago with the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrations.

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Despite Record Inflation Social Media Is Encouraging Americans To Spend – Forbes



For 2022, one of the greatest concerns Americans are facing could be how record inflation will continue to increase household expenses and eat into wages. The 7 percent increase in the inflation rate over the course of 2021 marked the largest in nearly four decades. Americans saw prices for the basic necessities rise at a dramatic rate in 2021.

While the government’s efforts to provide stimulus aid and ultra-low interest rates motivated Americans to spend, supply chain woes resulted in such high demand for goods that prices increased at a record pace. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the core inflation rate, which excludes volatile goods such as food and gas, jumped by 5.5 percent in December, the highest in decades.

Yet, U.S. shoppers are continuing to spend – and social media continues to be a major factor on where Americans are taking their business. According to a new survey conducted by Point and OnePoll, more than one in three respondents said they considered social media “very influential” when it comes to their spending habits – with 35 percent of respondents reporting as much, compared to just 12 percent who said social media is “very uninfluential.”

The survey also found that more than half Americans – 55 percent – even said that social media had influenced them to go over budget or otherwise spend more money than intended on a particular product. One factor cited was the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses,” with 35 percent of respondents agreeing.

It Was The Pandemic

Social media’s influence in getting Americans was also amplified by the pandemic. During the lockdowns, and calls to scale back gatherings, Americans actually cut back on spending. However, in 2021 as the country began to settle into the new normal, spending increased – even as the supply chain issues persisted.

“The pandemic changed and continues to evolve consumer shopping habits,” explained Mary Schneeberger, senior director of the integrated marketing practice at Avionos, which has also tracked American spending habits in 2021. “Between online, in-person and hybrid shopping, the past two years have proved that retailers will do anything to adapt to their consumers’ needs and demands for a seamless shopping experience. In the age of influencers, virtual reality try-ons and live streams, purchasing products through social media is on the rise and is further changing the future of shopping habits.”

Social media hasn’t just changed the way consumers transact, but also the way they discover new brands and products.

“Social influencers have earned consumers’ trust by showcasing their purchases, discussing the quality of the product and giving their opinions to thousands of people on platforms like YouTube, TikTok and Instagram in an entertaining format. Customers are using other customer ratings and reviews to make final purchasing decisions vs. relying solely on brand-published content,” said Schneeberger via an email.

The Younger Crowd

Not surprisingly, the Avionos study also found that it has been mostly younger generations who use social media in their shopping decisions.

“Gen Zers (70 percent) and Millennials (68 percent) used social media to purchase and interact with brands more than Gen X (51 percent) and Baby Boomers (33 percent) since these younger users leverage multiple channels to buy products compared to older generations,” added Schneeberger.

Gen Zers were also found to spend more time on social media compared to their older counterparts, which further explains why they view social media as a purchase destination compared to older generations.

Yet not everyone is sold on using social media for shopping.

“Of those who have not purchased via a social media platform, 45 percent don’t see social media as a destination for purchase and 33 percent don’t trust social media apps with my credit card number or other personal information,” said Schneeberger. “Additionally, consumers often prefer to complete their purchase on a web browser (16 percent) or want to see a product in-person rather than online before they buy it (15 percent).”

Different Platforms

Avionos found that Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are used the most to purchase products by young consumers.

“However, 56 percent of Gen Zers purchased an item using a different channel than they originally intended,” noted Schneeberger. “Since Gen Zers are more comfortable using digital channels and are more apt to use eCommerce and social platforms to complete purchases, retailers are more likely to tailor to this audience on their preferred social platforms given their heavy influence on evolving consumer behaviors. On the other hand, 45 percent of Millennials and Gen Xers used online platforms to purchase products to pick up in-store or through curbside pickup, so retailers are more likely to engage with them both online and in-store since they prefer to physically see products before they purchase them. This furthers the importance of scaling omni-channel commerce experiences to meet different customers where they want to engage.”

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Social media boosts U.S. red meat profile in Hong Kong – National Hog Farmer



With the surge in meat buying at retail and online in Hong Kong, USMEF partnered with an imported meat wholesaler and key opinion leader (KOL) to raise the visibility of U.S. red meat, promote sales of a wider range of cuts with end-users and provide promotional support to foodservice partners.

“The pandemic accelerated demand for high-quality protein and online content about food, meat handling and preparation,” says Joel Haggard, USMEF senior vice president for the Asia Pacific. Instead of working with general foodie KOLs, Beef Checkoff Program funding from Texas Beef Council and support from USDA’s Market Access Program and Agricultural Trade Promotion Program were utilized to partner with a local meat wholesaler with a strong social media following among the Hong Kong trade. Costs have been lower with this trade-focused approach, says Haggard, “and arguably have resulted in a greater long-term return due to adoption of many of our KOL’s recommendations by other institutional meat users.”

Known as Meat Dee to his Facebook and YouTube followers, Dee Liu is the son of a former wet market operator who has helped expand the family business into imported meat wholesaling. USMEF has worked with Meat Dee on several educational videos focused on simple at-home preparation of alternative cuts such as the hanging tender. (See video featuring a local Italian chef joining Meat Dee to cook hanging tenders.)

“In providing this educational content to the trade through Meat Dee, sales of a wider range of U.S. red meat cuts have been realized in both foodservice and retail channels,” says Haggard.

As the tentative restaurant recovery began in early 2021, USMEF also partnered with Meat Dee on a series of short YouTube videos featuring visits to Hong Kong restaurants where U.S. red meats were featured as center-of-the-plate items. The culinary styles were diverse, ranging from pet-friendly, American-themed restaurants to iconic traditional local steakhouses, hot pot and Korean barbecue establishments.

Aimed at consumers, the emphasis of the 2021 videos was on locally owned and operated restaurants rather than international chains. Each video is approximately 10 minutes in duration and shooting was done ‘live’ without rehearsals. Two of the videos, for instance, focused on cooking recommendations for U.S. Berkshire pork.

“The contents are not restaurant reviews per se, but stories about the main U.S. red meat dishes that make each restaurant notable or successful,” says Haggard.

A total of 16 videos were produced in 2021, attracting up to 30,000 views. The restaurant operators covered in the series have been especially appreciative of the promotional effort given the challenges they faced in 2020 and 2021, Haggard adds.

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Screen Shots: Hockey Media Brouhaha and Anaheim's Struggles – The Hockey News




John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s late in the workweek, and that means it’s time for a Screen Shots column, wherein we take a brief look at a few newsworthy topics. Let’s get right to it.

– The hockey world was abuzz earlier this week after veteran Edmonton journalist Jim Matheson and Oilers superstar Leon Draisaitl got into a heated back-and-forth during a media availability. While it’s tempting/easy to take the “both sides are equally to blame” angle, the truth is that NHL players don’t need journalists to do their jobs well, and all things considered, reporters do need some sort of input to do their jobs well.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think journalists should depend on players to effectively cover the game. As I’ve said to young writers all the time, you should be at the rink prepared to write a story that doesn’t require a cliche to be complete. Media need not be beholden to players. Journalistic independence applies here, and just as we expect players not to roll their eyes at lame-o questions, we also should expect journalists not to sneer at lame-o answers.

As others have noted, the long wait between games for the Oilers was a mitigating factor in the tension between Draisaitl and Matheson. That said, under longtime media-player rules, when cameras didn’t zero in on every breath and conversation between NHLers and reporters, some hostile situations never saw the light of day. It was kept between the two arguing parties, and nobody else was ever the wiser.

But just because you didn’t see run-ins happen, that doesn’t mean they didn’t take place. I’m reminded of that when I think of one of my first years covering the Toronto Maple Leafs on a game-in, game-out basis. At the start of the season, star goalie Ed Belfour was in the midst of dealing with Leafs media at his dressing room stall for one of his first interviews in a Toronto uniform; but unbeknownst to Belfour, a print reporter and a TV journalist wound up physically jostling with one another as they tried to get in close to him. Finally – while Belfour was still answering questions – the muscling-in on each other boiled over, with the print reporter asking the TV journalist whether he wanted to “go”.

As this was happening, Belfour’s mouth fell open. When the cameras and microphones clicked off, Befour asked, incredulously, “is it always like this here?” We all know media scrums are where decorum goes to die, and Belfour had played in big markets before Toronto, but the press is almost always a different animal when it comes to Canadian franchises. Hopefully, after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, we can all go back to covering players and teams the way we’ve always covered them, and diffuse arguments like this one before they mushroom into something bigger and nastier. If not, there will probably be more of these types of frigid relations.

– After surprising many people with a strong start to the season, the Anaheim Ducks have regressed to the mean, winning just two times in their past 11 games (2-7-2) and falling to third place in the current Pacific Division standings. However, the discrepancy in games-played between the Ducks and the fifth-place Calgary Flames – a discrepancy that has Calgary holding a whopping seven games in hand on Anaheim, while trailing the Ducks by only five standings points – means that Anaheim has to start turning things around, lest they switch spots with the Flames and wind up missing out on the playoffs.

Part of their recent slump is connected to the COVID-19 virus taking a bite out of starting goalie John Gibson, but in their current four-game losing skid, they’ve been outscored 16–4. It isn’t all about defense; this has to do with the highs and lows that come with having a young core of developing talent. Anaheim has seen some of the highs this year with the evolution of young forwards Trevor Zegras and Troy Terry; now they are understanding how difficult it is to maintain a strong pace as a group. I still am not sure about them making the playoffs this year, and this recent slump as a unit gives me evidence for concern.

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